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Physics’ Bunker and Segre Co-Organize and Lead 2017 APS/IIT XAFS Summer School

Grant Bunker, chair and professor of physics, and Carlo Segre, Duchossois Leadership Professor of Physics, co-organized and led the 2017 APS/IIT XAFS Summer School, held July 9-13 on Mies Campus and at Argonne National Laboratory.

XAFS (X-ray Absorption Fine Structure) spectroscopy is a versatile X-ray technique for determining precise structural information at the molecular level. In addition to crystals, it can be applied to amorphous solids, solutions, liquids, and gases. It is used in a variety of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, environmental science, materials science, and geology. In recent decades, the XAFS technique has grown in popularity in tandem with other types of synchrotron radiation research.

Bunker and Segre have decades of experience in XAFS, and both use XAFS in their research. Bunker wrote the book Introduction to XAFS: A Practical Guide to X-ray Absorption Fine Structure Spectroscopy (Cambridge University Press, 2009). He started in XAFS 40 years ago in the laboratory of the late Edward Stern, professor emeritus, University of Washington, in which the modern theory and practice of XAFS was first developed, and he has contributed to the development of various aspects of the technique.

In all, 40 students participated in the summer school, most of them graduate students and postdocs, but others professional scientists from government and industry. About one-third of the participants were from countries outside of the United States, namely Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, England, and Canada.

The school provided training in fundamental aspects of XAFS, from theory and experimental methods to hands-on labs in sample preparation, data acquisition, and data analysis. It included one day of measurements using five X-ray beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne. The course is structured so students had free time to explore Chicago’s cultural and other activities.

In addition to Bunker and Segre, instructors included Steve Heald, senior physicist and group leader, spectroscopy, Argonne National Laboratory; Matt Newville, beamline scientist and research associate professor, University of Chicago; Bhoopesh Mishra, research assistant professor, Illinois Institute of Technology; and a substantial group of experienced beamline scientists at the APS.